Google Pixel Watch hands-on: The first Google smartwatch is here!

Since the presentation of Android Wear in 2014, there has been speculation about a Google watch—and now it is finally here, the Google Pixel Watch. This smartwatch is supposed to combine the fitness features of Fitbit with the smart features of Wear OS. Read whether that works in NextPit’s first pre-release test of the Pixel Watch.

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Google Pixel Watch in a nutshell

The first impression of the Google Pixel Watch is mostly positive. The build quality is excellent, and the feature set of Wear OS is enormous with the large app selection and all the in-house services from Google Home to Google Wallet and Google Assistant.

In addition, there is the tried-and-tested fitness tracking from Fitbit. However, the battery life of 24 hours (without Always-on Display!) is pretty short. And you need a Fitbit Premium subscription to use all fitness features.

Google Pixel Watch
The Google Pixel Watch offers virtually the same fitness features as the Fitbit Sense 2. / © NextPit

The Google Pixel Watch only comes in one size: 41 millimeters. However, Google offers the smartwatch as a WLAN version and an LTE version. The WLAN version costs $349.99. If you want to leave the smartphone at home regularly, you have to pay $399.99 for the 4G model with eSIM.

Design and display

The design of the Google Pixel Watch is no longer a surprise.
Google already showed the watch in numerous render pictures at Google I/O in June of this year. But now we finally had the opportunity to touch the smartwatch ourselves. The case of the Pixel Watch is made of stainless steel—80 percent recycled, by the way—and feels really high-quality.

This also applies to the digital crown on the side of the case, which gives a gentle haptic feedback when turned and can be pressed in to confirm actions or open the main menu. Above the crown is a second button that serves as a back button in everyday use and can assume different functions depending on the context.

Google Pixel Watch
On the right side of the Google Pixel Watch sit the digital crown and a back button. / © NextPit

A “three-dimensional” Gorilla Glass 5 specially made by Corning for Google is used on the front. With all the soft curves, the watch feels like a pebble washed round over the millennia on the wrist. The watch weighs 36 grams without the strap and is not too thick at 12.3 millimeters. Included with the watch is a sports wristband made of high-quality fluoroelastomer. Google also offers numerous accessory wristbands, but relies on a proprietary connector—just like Apple.

And of course there is the circular AMOLED display with a pixel density of 320 ppi and a maximum brightness of 1000 nits. And yes: The 1.5-inch screen has quite big borders, but Google cleverly conceals them with predominantly dark menus. The first impression of the screen is positive: The display is razor-sharp and also offers nice colors, not least thanks to the DCI-P3 color space.

Google Pixel Watch Display
The display of the Pixel Watch makes a good impression in the first hands-on. / © NextPit

The Google Pixel Watch is bit 5 ATM water-resistant. Thus, the watch is suitable for showering and gentle swimming. However, you should refrain from diving or water sports with fast movements since significantly higher partial pressures can occur here.

System: Wear OS 3.5

The Pixel Watch is Google’s first smartwatch—and accordingly a showcase for where the manufacturer wants to go with the Wear OS that is jointly driven with Samsung.
At the same time, the operating system is also the biggest differentiator in terms of functionality compared to the premium smartwatches from Fitbit, which also belongs to Google in the meantime.

The very big strength of Wear OS is of course the support for apps. The store is filled with apps from Komoot and Strava to Google’s own apps like Google Wallet and Google Home. The latter allows you to control your smart home directly from your wrist, and Google Assistant is of course also on board—accordingly, the Pixel Watch also has a microphone and speaker.

And: You get three months of YouTube Music Premium for free with the purchase. The smartwatch also serves as a remote shutter and even wrist finder for your Pixel smartphone via the Pixel Camera Shutter.

Google Pixel Watch
In the Play Store on Pixel Watch you will find countless apps. / © NextPit

As already suspected in advance, the Pixel Watch is powered by the already quite old Exynos 9110 from 2018 with 2 GB of RAM. Nevertheless, first impressions show that WearOS version 3.5 runs smoothly on the smartwatch. The smartwatch also offers 32 GB of storage for music and apps.

The connection to the smartphone runs via Bluetooth 5.0, and there is also Wi-Fi according to 802.11 b/g/n and NFC. As mentioned at the beginning, the Pixel Watch is also available in a 4G version. The Google Pixel Watch works with all smartphones with Android 8.0 or later.

Sensors & Fitness

The Google Pixel Watch has all the fitness features that we have already seen in the Fitbit Sense – with all the advantages, but also the known disadvantages.
You need a Fitbit Premium subscription for $8.99 per month to use the full range of features. As with the Fitbit smartwatches, you get six months of Premium subscription for free when you buy the Google Pixel Watch.

Probably the most important sensor of the Pixel Watch is on the back: the PPG sensor, with which the smartwatch measures your heart rate once per second day and night. In addition, the Google Watch also measures the wearer’s blood oxygen saturation. Furthermore, there is a so-called “multipurpose electrical sensor” that is not only used for ECG measurement, but is also supposed to record your stress level.

The Pixel Watch also generates your daily form index from the various values. The value is supposed to tell you whether you can go full throttle on the respective day or should rather slow down a bit. As with the Fitbit smartwatches, you only get the daily fitness index if you have an active Fitbit Premium subscription.

Google Pixel Watch
The Pixel Watch is definitely more fun with Fitbit premium subscription. / © NextPit

Google also installs the usual sensors for acceleration and position as well as an altimeter and GPS in the Pixel Watch. Thus, you can leave the smartphone at home while jogging and still record your run. However, it is not possible to connect third-party accessories to the Pixel Watch, at least not yet.

For example, you cannot use chest straps or cadence sensors from other manufacturers for sports tracking. Speaking of other manufacturers and so on: Google plans to add accident detection via a software update in winter 2022.

Battery and charging

The Google Pixel Watch offers a 294 mAh battery. The manufacturer promises a battery runtime of 24 hours—with the always-on display turned off.
If you activate the Always-on Display, the runtime is supposed to be reduced to about 20 hours and hopefully still gets us through the day comfortably.

Unfortunately, the Pixel Watch has the same problem as the Apple Watch, for example: If you want to track your sleep, you will have to charge the watch for a while during the day. Unfortunately, the Google Watch does not charge very fast. According to the manufacturer, it takes 30 minutes to charge the battery to 50 percent—a full charge should take 80 minutes.

Google Pixel Watch
Unfortunately, no huge battery fits into the compact housing of the Google Pixel Watch. So you have to charge the smartwatch daily. / © NextPit

Google offers a small charging puck that magnetically attaches to the back of the smartwatch for charging. On the other side of the cable you will find a USB-C port. Unfortunately, we cannot yet say whether Google uses the Qi standard and whether you can charge the watch via reverse wireless charging on the go with your smartphone.

Early Verdict

The Google Pixel Watch condenses many different influences. The fitness features are virtually identical to those of the Fitbit Sense 2, and the Wear OS operating system, which has now been jointly developed by Google and Samsung, is added. The result is a smartwatch that is conceptually very similar to the Apple Watch—with all its advantages and disadvantages.

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